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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

THE CURRENT STATE OF AFFAIRS

 

I'm betting that those of you who are dealing with, or who have dealt with, a serious illness and the ongoing treatment for it can understand how after an extended period in the medical thick of it, one can lose all sense of time and begin to feel as though trapped in some Twilight Zone-esque existential limbo. My schedule over the past nine months has been thus:

-awaken on dialysis days and dread going in for treatment
-enduring the rigors of treatment
-coming home afterward and being unable to hold down food (along with other unpleasant side-effects)
-a dodgy sleep schedule thanks to post-treatment anxiety winding me up
-finally drifting off sometime just before sunrise and sleeping for about three hours
-awaken on dialysis days and dread going in for treatment
-waking up somewhere around 7am on a day off, getting up to pee and take daily meds, perusal of the internet before going back to bed and sleeping past noon while my body recovers from the previous day's treatment
-wake up for the rest of the day (with naps possible), eat a much-needed meal, handle whatever life business needs attending to
-eat an evening meal
-get wound-up with anticipation/dread for dialysis the next day, eventually go to sleep sometime just before sunrise
-awaken on dialysis days and dread going in for treatment
-REPEAT (unless it's a Friday, in which case I'll be in a good mood during treatment because I know I'm about to have two days off in which to fully relax and recover before resuming on Monday)

In short, my life is on indefinite hold as I cannot miss treatment. I can delay it by perhaps a day or two at most, but then it's immediately back in the saddle that is my assigned recliner that makes me feel like the Monster when he's securely chained up in that dungeon chair in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. And next month I have three doctors' appointments at Mount Sinai — a lower ultrasound with my cardiologist, a checkup with my PC, and a checkup with dermatology — so that's three days off from dialysis down the drain (necessary, but still).

I feel like I'm in GROUNDHOG DAY, and all of this was once again driven home just a few minutes ago, as I stared at my zombie-like face in my bathroom's mirror. It is taking every bit of my waning psychological and emotional fortitude in order not to just surrender and go completely barking mad. But endure I shall, and hopefully a donor kidney will arrive sooner than later.

Next month I have three doctors' appointments at Mount Sinai — a lower ultrasound with my cardiologist, a checkup with my PC, and a checkup with dermatology — so that's three days off from dialysis down the drain (necessary, but still).

Then there's what is sure to be a fraught Mother's Day, which I will spend with my mom in Connecticut. Our relationship is famously contentious for many reasons, which is why I avoid visiting whenever I can get out of it, but with my mom's advancing age and the fact the has cancer in both lungs, this Mother's Day could potentially be her last, so missing it would be beyond shitty. I'll endure that too, and it will be marked with a trip to Westfair Seafood for dinner o that Saturday. Mom loves the place and I dig it as well, so we'll likely find a peaceful common ground as we stuff our faces on Fairfield County's finest fried seafood. But all the while I will be internally wrestling with conflicted emotions regarding my history with my only truly committed parent, who did the best that she could, especially considering the viper's nest of dysfunction and genuine madness that she grew up in. Lately I have pondered whether or not I could have been a better son to her and if I could have somehow been more tolerant of her endless judgement and criticism and just shrugged it off, but as anyone who knows her can tell you, Mildred is not an easy person to deal with. The windows through which her more pleasant aspects shine through are few, so I consider myself lucky when that side of her shows up.

Sorry to ramble, but my mind of late is in a perpetual state of exhaustion coupled with a level of contemplation and introspection that comes with being stuck in an inescapable cycle. To those of you who are also in similar situations, or even worse, believe me when I say that I feel you.

THE PAUSE THAT REFRESHES?


After downing some phosphorus blockers in order to make doing so safe, I just had my first Coca-Cola in nine months — one of the real ones, the Mexican iteration with actual sugar in lieu of high fructose corn syrup, in the vintage-style bottle that you can use as a handy weapon when you finish drinking its contents — and after having been off of them for nearly a year, I found its flavor to be quite underwhelming. Not at all the refreshing elixir I once so dearly cherished. Dialysis patients are advised to steer clear of dark sodas due to their high phosphorus content, and instead we are steered toward clear items like ginger ale, 7-Up, Sprite, seltzer, and such, so that's what I have gone for when I craved an effervescent libation of late. And if I want a sweet drink I go for either one of the fruit nectars put out by Ceres (which I dilute by half with water), or I have some of the grape Kool-Aid that I have at the ready in a half-gallon Mason jar in my fridge. (Diluted with water my more than half the recommended amount, plus four long pours of concentrated lemon juice for tartness.) Other than those options, I stick to refrigerated water. (Oh, and I did have two standard cans of Coke while over at Tracey's during the past few months, but those were downed in order to settle my stomach when going to her place immediately after dialysis. After those two specific lapses, when at her place I have stuck strictly to seltzer.)

I understand how folks become addicted to sugary sodas, and my gateway to them came when I worked at my hometown's flagship movie theater during my youth. I had unlimited access to the concession stand's soda machine, so every shift I would consume perhaps two large containers of Coca-Cola straight from the tap, with some extra seltzer to give it a more "crisp" zest. I'm not a coffee drinker, so sodas like Coke and Dr. Pepper were my go-to source for a caffeine boost, back when I still required caffeine. Now, however, I never feel a need for caffeine and, coupled with the medical restriction on drinks high in phosphorus content, I had no urge for a Coke until about an hour ago.

Having gone for nearly a year without downing a real Coke — or a Dr. Pepper, which I greatly prefer; southern genetics — I find that my palate has adjusted, and "the Real Thing" simply no longer does it for me. I'm curious to see how my adjusted palate will react to Dr. Pepper, as I plan to have at least one during the upcoming summer cookout season, but I will absolutely continue to use it as the liquid base in the sealed pan when I prepare slow-cooked shoulders of pulled pork in my oven.


Saturday, April 24, 2021

WONDER WOMAN 1984 (2020): A Retraction

Back when WONDER WOMAN 1984 hit, I was in a bad place emotionally and I needed the comfort food of further adventures of my favorite Amazon warrior. I sat through the film and, while fully recognizing its many, many flaws, I still enjoyed it. But now it's months later and I have had a lot of time to mull it over while removing my comfort food need from the equation, and I finally have to admit that the film is a tragic over-long dumpster fire. The narrative is awful, they should have chosen one villain over the other and just focused on whichever they picked, Wonder Woman's barely in it in costume doing superhero stuff, and do NOT get me started on how the story turned Diana into a sex offender.
 
They've already greenlit the next installment and I hope they studio learned several lessons from the creative failure of this film. Patty Jenkins did a great job directing the first film, but she did not write its script. WONDER WOMAN 1984, however, was Jenkins's baby all the way, and if the results are anything to go by, she should not be let anywhere near a Wonder Woman script going forward. 
 
Seriously, when considering the roster of the DCEU movies, I place WONDER WOMAN 1984 only a notch above the Chernobyl that was SUICIDE SQUAD, and I do so purely for the major eye candy that is Gal Gadot.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

BIRDS OF PREY AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN (2020)

The return of Harley Quinn, and this time she's got a posse.

Four years after the cinematic debacle that was SUICIDE SQUAD (2016), finally fed up with being the Joker's physical and emotional punching bag, loony psychiatrist/gymnast/super-villain Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) breaks up with the Clown Prince of Crime and once that fact is made public and she is no longer under his homicidal protection, everyone she ever wronged in Gotham City comes out of the woodwork to exact savage vengeance. Along with staying ahead of the legion of people who want to kill her, a distraught Harley is tasked by vicious mob boss Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) with finding a young pickpocket (Ella Jay Basco) who stole a diamond encrypted with the codes to unlock a long-lost mafia fortune. With only a few hours in which to accomplish her mission, Harley must navigate a maelstrom of underworld mayhem, and along the way she gains allies in hardened veteran Gotham City detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), mob princess turned crossbow-wielding assassin the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and nightclubs singer with a hidden superhuman attribute, the Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). Much fighting, shooting, and out-of-control mayhem ensues.

After purposefully avoiding it for just over a year, I finally sat through BIRDS OF PREY AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN and, despite being utterly oversaturated with its lead character over the past two decades, I liked it quite a lot. In fact, I'd rank it among the best of the DCEU films. (Which is admittedly not saying much, as that bar is set frustratingly low.) 

Margot Robbie, one of the very few saving graces of the incoherent and genuinely awful SUICIDE SQUAD, is once more a lot of fun as Harley, and the whole film embraces the fact that it's basically a live-action cartoon. That said, I wish it had simply been allowed to be a Harley Quinn movie and not also serve as a cheap way to launch a possible Birds of Prey franchise. BoP is one of my favorite DC properties, especially when written well, and by tying it in with the antics of Harley Quinn in the minds of the general moviegoing public, the filmmakers have squandered any hope of a straight BoP movie.

Also, while I liked Jurnee Smollett-Bell in the role, I was kind of annoyed at the filmmakers making the Black Canary a black woman. I'm beyond sick of the trope of black superheroes automatically getting slapped with "Black" as part of their name (despite having written a parody black superhero named "the Black Darkness"), and part of the fun of the comics Black Canary is that she's a brunette white chick who dons a blonde wig when kicking criminal ass. At least this version kept the status as a second-generation legacy hero, following in her deceased mother's footsteps.

Ewan McGregor was also fun as crime boss Black Mask, who was clearly coded as gay and, refreshingly, not played as a fey stereotype. In fact, McGregor appeared to be having a blast playing this quriky and psychotic baddie. And speaking of criminals, his "BFF," Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), is a real piece of work who reveals in the torture and mutilation of his victims. The scene where he peels the faces off of a Chinese crime boss, his wife, and his daughter is truly unsettling. And though based on a family-friendly DC Comics property, I was surprised to find out that the film is rated R and quite violent, which certainly kept me interested throughout.

Fun and definitely worth sitting through at least once. 

Poster from the theatrical release.